Building Relationships

building relationships 2

Yesterday we began with remembering names. Today we continue with principles in building relationships. Since relationships depend on communication, and communication involves listening, the very first principle in building relationships is be a good listener. Often we do not remember names or facts simply because we were not paying attention. We may be too busy thinking of what we want to say next, or worse still, we do not deem the other person important enough to pay attention to. No wonder people got the impression that we did not hear what they’re saying. To be a good listener, you need to do at least 3 things:
a. Look at them,
b. Visual approval,
c. Verbal approval.

You need eye-contact, whether you are speaking to a person one-on-one, or to a large audience. Look, not stare, at their face. Don’t let your eyes wander across the room, as if you’re looking for someone more important to talk to. When you listen, give visual approval. Smile. Nod. Body language is important, often more important than the actual words said. Give verbal approval as well. Say, “I see,” or “I understand”. It does not necessarily imply you agree with everything said, just that you’ve heard and understood. There are other skills, but if you practice these 3, it’ll go a long way towards helping you to be a better listener.

But communication is two-way – you need to talk as well as listen. And if you’re not an extrovert who can talk with ease about anything with anybody, what do you do? That’s where conversation starters come in. Start with something light. Remember the conversation areas:
a. Name – Hi, my name is …
b. Home – Where do you live?
c. Family – Tell me about your family.
d. Time – How do you spend your time?
e. Travel – Where have you travelled?
f. Relaxation – What do you do to relax?

Begin by introducing yourself. State your name. People will reciprocate. Remember their names by using the IRAs (impression, repetition, association). Switch into something neutral by saying, “I’m from …, where do you live?” We live in a world that is increasingly global. It is natural for people to be curious about where their new acquaintances come from. Dwell on that to find out what’s interesting about their home town, what is it known for etc. Move on to inquire about their family. Do they have a large family, are they here or living elsewhere etc. In our age of high mobility, you’ll often find people with family members scattered all over the world. Then slide into how they spend their time, which places they’ve been to, would they recommend it, and what do they do for rest and recreation. Notice you gradually move from the impersonal to the personal, but staying at a neutral level for people you met for the first time.

Do the conversation areas work? They most certainly do. Just recently I attended a Christmas party hosted by one of my wife’s former business vendors. Seated next to me was a couple who are also the host’s clients, but complete strangers to me. I am a man of few words, but my neighbor was even less talkative than I was. What do you talk about for the 3 to 4 hours of the banquet? I practiced the conversation areas. You’ll find that if you transition from one area to the next, you’ll discover some common ground on which to have some very interesting conversation and get to know the other person.

(To be continued)

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